Loretta: Part Two
"Wow," I breathed.
In front of me stood a black iron fence, twice
as tall as my owner Tina. Behind that, an enormous mansion reared from the ground.
I stopped walking; just looking at it made the courage that had swept me all
the way here falter. But I wasn't going to go home, no way. I had vowed not
to return until I had been inside Loretta's house, so that I had something to
tell Tina, and my sister and brother, Maeya and Raine.
I compared the address written on the treasured
piece of paper that Loretta had given me with the one on the letterbox; they
matched. Determinedly, I struggled with one of the gates, and it slowly swung
open. As I heaved it shut behind me, I felt a strange sense of being trapped.
I shook it off, and headed up the broad pathway to the stairs. Hesitantly, I
knocked on the double doors.
They opened, and unfriendly faces peered out
at me. "Who are you?" demanded one of the two Skeiths looking at me.
"I'm Sorelle," I stammered blankly, fiddling
nervously with the necklace I had worn especially for this occasion. This necklace
was the one item of jewellery our family owned. Tina had found it the day she
adopted her first pet - me. She had taken it as some sort of sign. It was very
special to her, and she refused to sell it, although doing so would bring in
much-needed Neopoints to our household.
"What do you want?" the other Skeith barked.
"I'm here to see Loretta," I managed to get out.
The Skeiths looked at each other, then one departed,
calling loudly, "Miss Loretta! Someone's at the door for you!"
My heart was pounding. Would she send me away
again, declaring that she didn't want to see me? Would she even remember me?
Distressed, I felt the urge to just run, run far away out of this fancy neighbourhood
back to my little home where I belonged. But I kept all four of my paws planted
firmly on the ground. I would not run, in spite of how terrified I was. I sang
the song I knew so well to myself in my head.
It's all right, it's okay…
Loretta appeared in front of me, and we stared
at each other. For a cold moment, I thought that she didn't remember me. Then
"Sorelle! I thought you wouldn't come! Why did
you take so long?"
"I was busy," I mumbled. The truth was, I had
been too afraid to visit during the week that had passed since our first meeting,
but I sure wasn't telling her that.
And she was off, the light scarf she was wearing
about her neck fluttering out behind her. I struggled to keep up with her as
she led me through a maze of white marble and polished wood floors, elegant
sculptures and paintings, and Neopets clad in white rushing about busily. Finally,
we walked through a doorway, into the biggest and flashest room I had ever seen
in my life.
There was not a thing out of place, from the
lilac duvet on the four-poster bed, to the hundreds of accessories and jewellery
hung on slender white hooks in one corner of the room. The carpet was the same
colour as the duvet, and so were the silk curtains adorning the wide window.
White lily flowers were arranged in a light purple vase beside a broad dresser
with an enormous mirror. There was the biggest aquarium I had ever set my eyes
upon (not that that was saying much) against one wall, and several comfy-looking
white beanbags were placed in front of it.
Loretta pranced over and flung herself on the
beanbags, giggling. "What do you want to do?" When I remained speechless, she
suggested, "We could play a game. I have all the new ones."
"I… I don't really feel like playing a board
game," I stammered.
"Oh, okay." She gestured to a large speaker.
"Do you feel like listening to music?"
"Not really," I said hesitantly.
"Well, then, what do you feel like doing?" she
demanded. I opened my mouth to reply, but she was already speaking again. "Come
in! Why are you just standing in the doorway?"
"Oh - uh. Right."
Tentatively, I walked over to her. The carpet
was immeasurably soft under my paws.
"What about Usukiland dolls? I have millions
of accessories and dolls. We could play with them," she proposed. "Do you feel
like doing that?"
"Okay," I agreed finally, and she scampered contentedly
over to a large wooden chest. I didn't want to play with Usukiland dolls either,
but I was scared to say no too many times.
She had lifted the lid of the chest, and was
heaving out a bag, with some difficulty. Finally, she lifted it clear of the
chest, and began staggering over to me.
"Oh, let me help!" I said, and rushed over to
her before she collapsed under the weight. I put my arms underneath the bag;
it sure was heavy.
To my surprise, her eyes flashed in anger. "No!
I can do it by myself!"
I fell back in astonishment. Almost as soon as
she had finished speaking, the inevitable occurred; she gasped with a final
effort, then the bag slipped from her paws and to the ground. Usukiland dolls
rolled out across the carpet.
Loretta tightened her lips, and picked up every
single one and put them back in the bag, without allowing me to touch even one
to assist her. Only when she had dragged the bag across the floor to me was
I permitted to handle them.
Then she returned to the chest, coming back with
a lighter bag, filled to the brim with accessories. My jaw dropped open, but
she wasn't finished yet; she made another, final trip to the chest and back,
bringing another identical bag. Then we played with them.
I tried so, so hard to have fun that day. And
maybe it was because of that that I didn't have fun at all. Loretta was being
ever so kind, letting me, a lowly poor pet, visit her. But… I don't know. It
just didn't seem right.
For one thing, I just wasn't used to this type
of play. The fun I was used to was simpler, less sophisticated than this. Things
like swimming in the sea, and playing in the old tree outside the house with
Raine, and telling made-up stories to a wide-eyed Maeya. That was my sort of
And the other thing was Loretta herself. It wasn't
that I was intimidated by her and her lifestyle, although I undeniably was.
It was just that she seemed… so uncertain. Not specifically in the way she spoke,
or played with her dolls; but that overall, she was cautious in her actions.
She sat across from me always, never beside me, and I know that she kept glancing
up at me. In fact, it was almost like she was nervous of me. But I knew that
that couldn't be right. What did she have to be nervous of?
Finally, Loretta said that I should probably
go home (I was too timid to put the idea forth myself). While she led me back
through the corridors of the mansion, I couldn't help but wonder about the way
she treated me. She seemed so uncomfortable and unsure of how to act around
me. With a flash of shame, I realised that it was probably because of how she
was associating with me. If any of her friends came to the door whilst I was
in the vicinity she wouldn't be able to refuse them entry, of course. No doubt
they all had the same sort of life as her, and they would be disgusted at how
she was playing with a Neopet 'below' her. Why was she playing with me, anyway?
I shook my head to clear the thoughts tumbling
around inside it, and focused on the surrounding area. We were coming up to
the grand entrance now. Loretta insisted on walking me to the gates herself
in spite of the two Skeith guards saying that they would do so. The guards refused
to let her open the heavy gates for me, though, so she fell back with a muttered,
"Stupid servants. Never let me do anything for myself."
I thanked her for her company, and bid her farewell.
Just as I turned to go, I heard her voice, thinner than usual, and almost pleading.
"Yeah?" I looked over my shoulder, forgetting
to avoid slang around her for my own image.
Her normally determined and steady face had taken
on a new expression, and her deep blue eyes betrayed anxiety. "Do… do you think
that you can come again?"
"Um…" I blinked. I hadn't expected her to invite
me back. Well, I hadn't expected to be invited the first time, either, really;
but I hadn't planned to return. The mansion, modern and well-furnished as it
was, just wasn't my kind of place. It seemed too harsh, too efficient to be
a home. Plus, I hadn't even met Loretta's owner, and I'd been there since late
morning to now, when it was almost dark. What sort of owner didn't spend any
time at all with their pet?
"Please?" she implored me.
I gave in. "Okay, I'll see if I can sometime."
"What about tomorrow?"
"I'll see if I can," I repeated. I didn't want
to promise anything. After all, if something came up in my own household, my
family was the priority.
When I glanced back at the mansion just before
I went around the corner and out of sight, Loretta was still standing there,
watching me. She looked so small and sad. She had everything a Neopet could
have. I just couldn't understand it.
As the days sailed past, Loretta kept inviting
me back to her house, and I kept going back, even though I felt very out of
place. It wasn't for the sake of all of her expensive items, but her company
that I enjoyed. She was unique. My friendship with her blossomed. I learned
that she was an only pet, which was why the only pets apart from her I saw were
the white-clad servants around the house. But an entire week had passed before
I finally met her owner.
One of the two Skeith guards - whose names I
now knew were Hamish and Jad - only had to yell, "Miss Loretta!" and she would
come running, knowing that it was me, and we would go through the almost familiar
to me passages to her room. But that day, as Loretta and I embraced and turned
to start the confusing trip, her owner walked into the room.
"Loretta, who's this?" he demanded, and his voice
was full of warning.
"My friend, Sorelle," she replied, defiantly
puffing up her chest. I could see fear in her eyes.
"I see," he said. He stared down his long nose
at me. "How long has 'Sorelle' been your friend?"
"A week," Loretta answered. Her eyes narrowed.
"I would have thought that you would have noticed after that long, Master."
"You know I only get one day off," he said angrily.
"I'm working practically non-stop for you! Show some gratitude, you selfish
beast!" Loretta's ears went back, and she trembled in fright. I shrank back
He turned to me, and looked me over. "You, come
with me," he ordered.
Loretta cried out. "Master! Please, don't!"
Her owner turned and shot her a glare. "Loretta,
Scared out of my wits, I followed him out of
the room and into what looked to be a study. He leaned towards me, and I flattened
instinctively against the ground, tail swishing from side to side.
"Sorelle. By the looks of things, you are not
a wealthy Neopet."
I clutched protectively at Tina's necklace, which
I always wore when I came to Loretta's house. "Loretta likes me anyway," I whispered.
He rubbed his neck thoughtfully. "Yes, yes, she
does. And I wonder; why has she taken a liking to one such as you? I have been
away all week earning Neopoints," he continued, "and so I haven't been able
to nip this foolish nonsense in the bud."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I said, hopefully
sounding more confident than I felt.
"After I have finished with you, please leave,
Sorelle," he said, ignoring my question.
My mouth opened. "But-"
Abruptly, he leaned forwards, and knelt down,
so that we were face to face, and hissed aggressively, "Nobody is good enough
to befriend a Neopet of mine; least of all you."
In that instant, I knew why Loretta always seemed
so hesitant and uncertain. I knew why her way with me was both stiff and clumsy,
and why she didn't know how to act around me. I realised that she didn't have
everything under the sun. There was one very important thing that was missing
in Loretta's otherwise perfect life, and her owner, who had given her everything
else just so he could show it off, was the one keeping it from her. Love.
And in that instant, I vowed to be the best friend
to her that Neopia had ever seen.
To be continued...